The most common form of 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo that is currently played, both online and in casinos, is 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better. This game differs from 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Regular in that the low hand splits the pot with the high hand ONLY if it is an 8-low or better (meaning that the player must have five unpaired cards as low as an 8, with straights and flushes not counting, and aces being considered low, to qualify). As a result, the strategy for this game will be somewhat different than its “regular” cousin, particularly in valuing high hands, which can be played more frequently. This article will focus on teaching you a comprehensive 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better strategy for beginners.
In any poker game, the most important decision you make is the first one, whether or not to play the cards you are dealt.
If you begin with good cards, you will have a much better chance of finishing with a good hand. A split pot game such as 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better provides unique challenges for choosing starting hands, as there are seemingly many cards you can be dealt that COULD develop into winners.
However, if you follow one basic rule, you will avoid getting into trouble playing this game. That rule is: Only play hands that have the potential to win BOTH halves of the pot (called “scooping”). It is only by consistently taking down the entire pot that you can be profitable in a split pot game, since you will often be up against just one other player, and if you split, all you do is get your money back (minus the “rake,” the house cut of the pot).
The best possible starting hands in 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better are three suited “babies” (three cards 8 or lower of the same suit) and a “rolled-up” hand (three-of-a-kind dealt on your first three cards). The power of the first hand is that it will often develop into a two-way winner, and when it doesn’t, will still take down half the pot quite frequently. The second hand will win the high the vast majority of the time, and often scoop the pot when no one is able to complete a low. Both hands should be raised, and if someone else has already completed the bring-in, re-raised.
In addition to those two hands, low straight cards (such as 2-3-4, 3-4-5, 5-6-7, etc.), paired aces with a low card, an ace with a low pair (which has many possibilities for both ends of the pot), and an ace with two other low cards (hoping to pair the ace to make a high to go along with your low) are hands that also should be played strongly right away.
Low straights that contain gaps are also great starting hands, but be wary of playing these when one of the cards is an 8, since any low you make with it is vulnerable to better hands, especially if you don’t complete your straight.
One hand that can be played for deceptive value is a hidden high pair with a low door card. This hand should be raised aggressively to try and get heads-up with one other player, as it is a very vulnerable hand to someone chasing a low who hits either a straight, flush, or low two pair, and the more players that remain in the pot, the more likely it is that someone will wind up with one of those hands. You can also play a three-card flush, where two of the cards are low, UNLESS there are at least two cards in your suit showing among the upcards at the table. You will do well to throw everything other than the above hands away, except for those times when you are attempting a late-position steal of the antes and bring-in bet with a good door card, when the remaining players have bad cards visible.
The second mistake most beginning 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better players make is refusing to fold when the fourth card misses their hand. After this, there are only three cards remaining to be dealt, and with one wasted card in your hand, the likelihood of completing a winning hand has dropped considerably. Most of the time, if you miss on the fourth card, you want to FOLD. Although there are times where you should ignore this rule, especially when your opponents also miss and you feel you had the best hand going in, you will save a lot of money by simply moving on to the next hand.
By the time the fifth card is dealt, when the betting limit doubles, you should have a very good idea of where you stand in relation to the other players. If you clearly have the best low, or the only made low (which you can tell if no one else has three low cards showing), you should raise with impunity, forcing the others to pay dearly to try and chase you down. If it is clear that you will have the only low hand at the end, you are “freerolling” for the entire pot, as you may also back into a straight, two pair or three-of-a-kind that takes the high as well. In this instance, you should also be putting as many bets into the pot as possible, especially if more than one player is contesting the high.
Other articles will focus on more subtle strategies that will further round out your 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better game, and make you an even more profitable player. However, mastering the concepts that we have just discussed, and being fully committed to playing hands that can scoop the pot and not continuing to chase hands that have turned bad, will go a long way toward insuring your success at this highly entertaining game.
The Main Index for Poker Variant Seven Card Stud High/Low Regular.